Zottman Dumbbell Preacher Curls – Biceps Exercise Guide


Zottman dumbbell preacher curls are a true throwback to old school strongmen and bodybuilders. This unique exercise is the creation of strongman George Zottman back in the 1880s. Modern day gym-goers can utilize this exercise to really give their arms a beating and tear down some serious muscle fibers in the process. It’s an exercise that takes a little bit of time getting used to because the motion of this movement is unlike any other arm exercise. It puts a massive amount of strain on your biceps and can really kick up your workout a notch and into high gear for some big time growth. You will be using a dumbbell for this exercise along with a preacher bench which you should be able to easily find in most gyms. Listed below is everything you need to know in order to execute this exercise safely and effectively.



Exercise Instructions: This exercise is very similar to alternating one arm dumbbell preacher curls and the regular Zottman curls. Hold a dumbbell in one hand and position your upper arm on a preacher bench with your armpit tucked into the end of the bench pad. Place your feet firmly on the ground to maintain a secure base. With an underhand grip (palm facing upwards), slowly curl the dumbbell straight up to the top position which will be at about shoulder level. Do not twist (supinate) your wrist as you curl the dumbbell up. Pause for a brief moment at the top and slowly rotate your wrists 180 degrees so that you now have an overhand grip with your palms facing down. Slowly lower the dumbbell back down to the starting position and repeat for the desired number of repetitions before switching to the other arm. Make sure to keep the back of your upper arm flat against the bench throughout the entire range of motion.

Muscles Targeted: Zottman preacher curls primarily target the biceps brachii, brachialis and brachioradialis. However this exercise pushes the muscles a bit more, because it is very difficult to cheat with this one due to the positioning of the body on the preacher curl machine. Sometimes, intentionally or not, you might tilt your upper arm forwards with regular standing bicep exercises, such as the bicep curls. This makes it easier for the biceps to get the weight up, as your shoulder is helping you. With Zottman preacher curls, you cannot do this, therefore taking away the pressure you might be putting on your shoulders, and focusing it all on the biceps with this isolation style exercise.

Why This Exercise is Important: This exercise is a great way to build a solid foundation for your biceps. It includes several key muscles in the arms and puts the biceps under great strain which will lead to increased strength and mass. Having strong arms is extremely beneficial for athletic sports where pulling motions come into play (football) as well as basic day-to-day activities like picking up grocery bags and doing housework.

Things To Avoid: This exercise is one of the harder ones to properly execute so don’t get frustrated if you struggle a little when first starting out. This means that you should not use the same amount of weight that you might use for your other traditional bicep exercises until you have the technique spot-on and feel comfortable with increasing the weight. Along with the decreased weight, you’re going to really have to make sure to take your time doing this exercise correctly which means performing it with a very slow and controlled tempo. This not only ensures that you receive the full benefits of the exercise, but it’s also important because the nature of this motion can lead to wrist and forearm injuries, if executed incorrectly.

Reps and Sets: Shoot for higher reps with this movement in the range of 12-15 per set. Its all about technique on this one so don’t rush in too quickly and try to lift heavy poundages or you might be sorry. Your overall biceps workout should consist of around 7-8 total sets using a few different exercises but make sure to avoid exceeding this amount since it could lead to overtraining issues which will halt your progress big time. Also, remember to avoid training your biceps multiple times per week. It’s simply too much stimulation for the biceps, since it’s a very small muscle group and doesn’t need to be annihilated with endless sets and reps. Focus on training your biceps only once per week for the best results.

Other Exercises To Use: Zottman dumbbell preacher curls combined with regular standing EZ bar preacher curls is a killer combination. With preacher curls you will use a slightly heavier weight and use a pyramid style repetition scheme (10, 8, 6 reps). After you’re finished with these two exercises, move onto seated bicep curls where you simply sit on a bench (with back support) with your palms facing in towards your sides at first, and then turning (supinating) them up to face towards your chest at the top of the movement to get that extra peak contraction in your biceps. View our extensive database of exercise guides for a comprehensive list of exercises that target the biceps and other muscle groups.

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